I got distracted and stopped reading Sudhir Venkatesh’s Off the Books: The Underground History of the Urban Poor midway. Jay-Z’s description of his hustling (a.k.a. crack-dealing) life, however, in his autobiodiscography, Decoded, brings the world of Venkatesh’s research to life in vivid color in a few sentences:
Guys my age, fed up with watching their moms struggle on a single income, were paying utility bills with money from hustling. So how could those same mothers sit them down about a truant report? Outside, in Marcy’s courtyards, and across the country, teenagers wore automatic weapons like they were sneakers….Hip-hop was already moving fashion out of the disco clubs and popularizing rugged streetwear, but we’d take it even further: baggy jeans and puffy coats to stash work and weapons, construction boots to survive cold winter nights working on the streets.